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State announces new initiatives to encourage more solar, new sites

PROVIDENCE, R.I. The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources announced today a new set of initiatives to encourage solar development on brownfields, rooftops and carports.

"Making renewable energy more affordable and accessible has been a top priority of this administration, and today's announcement builds on the progress we have made," said State Energy Commissioner Carol Grant. "There is so much underutilized space from parking garages, to rooftops, to former industrial complexes. By retrofitting these spaces with new solar panels, we will continue to lower our carbon footprint and to meet the growing demand for clean energy for all Rhode Islanders."

The initiatives announced today were developed over the past year with input from various stakeholders, including town planners, environmentalists, farmers, government agencies, businesses, developers, and concerned citizens.

The new initiatives are as follows:

Brownfields former industrial or commercial sites where future use is affected by environmental contamination are often ideal locations for renewable energy projects. Starting in the fall of 2018, renewable energy projects that are sited on brownfields will be eligible for financial incentives from the Renewable Energy Fund. One million dollars will be earmarked specifically for this initiative.

OER, in coordination with the Distributed Generation Board, is proposing an increase in the number of megawatts of capacity available for rooftop solar under the 2019 Renewable Energy Growth Program. Under this proposal, the cap would be raised 27 percent to nearly 9 megawatts, allowing more homeowners across the state to access the program starting in the spring of 2019. This proposal is subject to review by the Distributed Generation Board and Public Utilities Commission in late 2018.

OER has also proposed that carports solar arrays installed over parking areas be made available for the first time under the Renewable Energy Growth Program. The proposal is also subject to the same review and approval process as the small scale solar proposal.

"We want to thank all the members of our renewable energy siting working group for their valuable input. Energy siting will always be a challenge, but these initiatives are an important step toward reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and combating climate change, while preserving our state's forests and rural character," said Grant.

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